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Gifts for the Physics Fanatic in All of Us

From the electricity that fuels your holiday lights, to the shape of dancing snowflakes in the wind, down to the red-orange color of crackling flames in the fireplace, physics can explain much of what makes this time of year festive and memorable. More than the decorations, snowy weather or fire-roasted chestnuts, however, gifts are what many look forward to most each holiday season, especially the kids.

So, as you shop for the traditional tally whack and knick-knack, throw in some super magnetic putty or a build-your-own AM/FM radio kit for the voracious, growing minds in your family. Here, we’ve provided a number of links to sites where you can find physics-themed holiday gifts. Along the way, you might even find something for yourself that will give everyone a laugh, like the shirt with a mug shot of Schrodinger’s cat “Wanted dead and alive.”

Speaking of clothes, there’s a seemingly countless number of physics-themed shirts, ties, socks and more available for that person who needs another article of clothing to express their nerd within. Check out Zazzle for clever attire like the pi tie and RedBubble for shirts adorning sayings like “Lab Wars: May the research be with you.”

ScientificsOnline is a handy site for classic physics toys for kids like Newton’s cradle, the balancing bird and the famous dippy bird, complete with fashionable top hat. The dippy bird’s pendulum motion that can last for days at a time and the counterintuitive stance of the balancing bird are a great way to inspire a child’s imagination with the wonders of thermodynamics and Newtonian mechanics. And they’re an inexpensive distraction from the digital dream world.

ThinkGeek has a contemporary twist on the classic Newton’s cradle, a “Kinetic Light Newton’s Cradle,” as well as a series of other nifty and practical physics gifts. Get competitive with their “The Art of Science Advanced Trivia Game.” Or help out a clumsy friend with the “SpillNot No-Spill Mug Holder,” which employs the law of inertia to keep your coffee in the cup.

For an even bigger wow-factor, a levitating toy could be the perfect gift. Benefiting from the simple properties of magnetism, an object can seemingly defy gravity and float in the air. Fascinations has a collection of different levitating gifts. One of which is a spinning top shaped like a flying saucer, which has a radially oriented magnetic field that hovers above a base with an electromagnet that delivers a torque to the top, inducing spinning action.

Books are also great gifts for all ages. PhysicsDatabase contains a collection of their “Top 10 Physics Books on”. Many science magazines, like New Scientist and Scientific American also have lists such as “The best science books of 2013.” Moreover, science magazine subscriptions are another way to inspire young and developed minds with cutting-edge scientific discoveries in physics and other science fields.

Other miscellaneous gifts that could lead to a more physics-themed holiday are space calendars, periodic table playing cards, science-themed cookie cutters, and coffee mugs with your favorite physics jokes and sayings. Versions of all of these gifts can be found on Squiddo. And don’t forget the adorable Particle Zoo with stuffed-animal versions of subatomic particles like neutrinos, quarks and gluons as well as yet-to-be-observed dark matter and tachyons.


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